“Twilight’s Last Gleaming”

“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2”
Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner
Directed by Bill Condon

…And that’s a wrap for “The Twilight Saga.”

After four years and four prior movies that grossed more than $2.5 billion worldwide, the series comes to a rousing finish with the fifth and final entry, “Breaking Dawn – Part 2.”

While the decision to break the fourth book in Stephanie Meyers’ literary series into two films might have seemed like a blatant cash grab at the time, it actually appears to have done the last movie a world of good. That’s because returning director Bill Condon (who directed “Breaking Dawn – Part 1”) infuses the final entry with a refreshing balance of fun, vibrancy, action, humor and genuine emotion, making “Part 2” the best of the bunch, by far.

If the first four installments – 2008’s “Twilight,” 2009’s “New Moon,” 2010’s “Eclipse” and 2011’s “Breaking Dawn – Part 1” – were about the melodramatic love triangle between the brooding vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson), the sensitive werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner) and the confused Bella (Kristen Stewart), this last movie finds Bella embracing her new roles as a vampire and as a mother. That makes “Part 2” Bella’s movie all the way, and Stewart’s reinvigorated, empowered and sexy performance infuses the movie with a higher level of entertainment that was missing from the previous installments.

Not that it mattered to devoted Twihards, but the first four movies set the bar pretty low where their production values were concerned, making it hard for non-fans to embrace (or more likely, understand) the massive appeal of the series. On the other hand, one could argue that the movies simply gave the fans what they wanted, and on that level, they most definitely succeeded.

But for general moviegoers who merely tolerated the previous films (most likely because they were dragged to them by their wives, girlfriends, sisters or kids), their patience will be rewarded with a fun finale that thankfully doesn’t take itself too seriously. And with a budget of $75 million, it’s also the most expensive installment of them all, and the higher standards pay off with an exciting showdown between the Cullens, the Wolfpack and the Volturi that strays quite far from the final book – or does it?

Whether you enjoyed the “Twilight” phenomenon for the last four years or merely went along for the ride, there’s no question that the final scene of “Breaking Dawn – Part 2” packs an emotional wallop that brings the series to a satisfying conclusion. But it’s not really the end; it’s more like a new beginning for the devoted fans, all of whom will have the books to read and the movies to watch on DVD…


-Scott Mantz